What is the difference in meaning between " What time is it?" and " Do you mind telling me what the time is please ?",I await your reply as soon as posible.

Thank you,

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    The second is more polite. The difference is the same as between "I await your reply as soon as possible" and "Do you mind sharing your ideas on the possible difference between these two sentences? I would be very grateful!" Sep 27, 2015 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


There is no difference in meaning; there is an enormous difference in use.

Many languages have grammaticalized systems of deference, which encode a variety of differences in social standing between the participants in a conversation. Britons (who never never ne-ver shall be slaves) and Americans (whose Charter Myth is that all men are created equal) scorn these ways of speaking as repulsive toadying; but we have equally elaborate codes for acknowledging and regretting the unhappy necessity of imposing burdens on our peers.

For instance: it would be unspeakably peremptory to require that your interlocutor “Give me an answer at once!” Even your own more gracious “I await your reply as soon as possible” suggests to us a frigid insistence on your own needs, only slightly tempered by a condescending indication that your impatience will, if it must, tolerate some slight delay.

(We all know that that’s not what you mean; but it’s what it would mean if a native speaker said it.)

In the same way, “What time is it?” is an abrupt demand for information; it would be acceptable only in a situation of extreme urgency or between people with an established close personal or professional relationship. With a stranger you must be more hesitant and less willing to impose; you must make it clear that you value his time no less highly than he does, that you regret the necessity of intruding upon his attention, and that you do not even go so far as to request, however humbly, the information you require: you only wonder, hypothetically, whether it is possible that he might unbend so far as to consider, hypothetically, providing it.


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